In the annals of pro wrestling history, there have been many creative geniuses that have helped make a wrestling organization truly legendary.
Vince McMahon, Paul Heyman, Eddie Graham, George Scott, Bill Watts.
But one of the true great wrestling minds the business has ever known is a man who some wrestling fans forget, especially as time goes on.
To most modern fans, he is the guy who played a comedy role as one of Vince McMahon’s stooges during the Attitude Era. To my girlfriend, he is the funny, elderly French-Canadian fellow from “WWE’s Legend’s House.”
But Pat Patterson was much more than that. First off, he was a tremendous wrestler. His work in the San Francisco territory stacks up with almost everyone in the business. His work was just as convincing, whether he was a heel or a fan favorite.
“He was like a teacher, he was invaluable,” said Superstar Billy Graham, in an interview with Canadian wrestler Devon Nicholson. “He’s a genius, and all of the years he spent with Roy Shire, and as a tag team partner with Ray Stevens. Pat just evolved into a genius of the wrestling business. No one can compare to him as far as psychology, and what to do and when to do it. There’s no one any better than Pat Patterson.”
San Francisco promoter Roy Shire taught Pat Patterson the ins and outs of the business. He taught him crowd psychology, how to get heat on yourself or opponent, and he taught him the most important lesson of all.
How to sell tickets.
Growing up in California, my relatives used to tell me how good Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson were as wrestlers. These guys weren’t just wrestlers, they were household names in Central California. From San Francisco to Fresno, Pat Patterson was a legend.
For years, I just knew Patterson as part-time announcer and part-time wrestler. When I started watching some of the old AWA stuff, I knew what my uncle and aunt told me about.
Pat Patterson was the real deal.
As a heel, Patterson knew how to take a butt kicking like no one else. He would fly around the ring for his opponent, making even the most inexperienced guy look like Lou Thesz. Then, when you thought his opponent would have the match won, Patterson would sneak into his tights and hit his adversary with a foreign object for the win.
Later on, as a fan favorite, the fans respected Patterson’s abilities enough they would cheer him on, no matter if he was in the mid-card or main event. They knew when Pat Patterson was wrestling, they were going to get a great match.
After his San Francisco run, Patterson went to the AWA, where he won the Tag Team Championship with his old partner Ray Stevens. They held the title for almost a year, before dropping it to Verne Gagne and Mad Dog Vachon in Winnipeg, Canada.
After the AWA, Patterson went to the WWE, where he sell out after sell out with World Champion Bob Backlund.
“We had so many sell outs, we headlined Madison Square Garden three times,” Patterson said on an episode of Legends of Wrestling.
Patterson was so respected as a worker, that he became the first Intercontinental Champion. The title recognized who was actually the best worker on the roster, and Patterson was it. No matter who he was wrestling, Patterson always seemed to put on the match of the night.
In the early 1980’s the WWF was mostly made up of slow, plodding wrestlers who brawled. Patterson, along with Don Muraco, Sgt. Slaughter and Ken Patera, were probably the best workers the federation had at the time. His feud with Slaughter was epic, and the two put on one of the greatest brawls of all time-the Alley Fight at Madison Square Garden.
In 1981, before he became the host of the G.I. Jose cartoon, Sgt. Slaughter was one of the biggest villains in wrestling. He was also one heck of a wrestler, flying around the ring like a luchador, and taking a punishment like no one else. Go back and watch 1981-1984 Sgt. Slaughter, and you won’t believe how good this guy could be.
For a huge portion of the match, it was Patterson beating the absolute hell out of Slaughter.
“I could not believe how red he was,” Patterson told WWE.com. “But with no referee, the fight could not be stopped. I told myself I was going to pounce like a cat and finish him off.”
Most matches from that era don’t hold up, unless you are watching Ric Flair. But that one is fast paced, and full of action. If you have WWE Network, check it out, because it still holds up.
After his wrestling days were pretty much over, Patterson went on to be Vince McMahon’s color commentator on WWF Championship Wrestling from 1981-1984. He also co-hosted WWF’s broadcasts on the MSG Network with Gorilla Monsoon.
I might be in the minority, but I thought Patterson was underrated as a color analyst.
In 1984, when Vince McMahon decided to take his brand global, Pat Patterson became his right hand man. When George Scott was fired as booker in 1986, Patterson took over the position, and for a time, from 1987-1992, the WWF had some real creative angles, like the Hogan-Andre feud, Savage-Steamboat, Savage-Hogan, and Warrior-Savage.
In 1992, Patterson found himself caught up in the WWF sex scandal. Patterson, who is openly gay, was accused by former announcer Murray Hodgson of approaching him for sex, and if he didn’t agree, he would be fired. The accusations turned out to be false, and a few months later, Patterson would return to the WWF, booking the promotion with McMahon and J.J. Dillon.
Newer fans will remember him as the older gentleman on WWE’s reality series, “Legend’s House”, which you can watch on WWE Network. When I first started watching it, I thought it was going to be absolutely horrible, but it wasn’t. It was highly received by the critics, and made me and my girlfriend laugh. One of the funniest parts of the whole show was when “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan developed a bromance, much like the Paul Rudd-Jason Segel dynamic in the movie “I Love You Man.” On one episode, when Piper was away at a convention, Duggan missed his new buddy Piper. He would call his cell like 20 times, and then asked Patterson if he had heard from Piper.
Patterson had one of the greatest quips of all time.
“What, do you want to marry him or something?”
I about choked on my popcorn, laughing hysterically.
Whatever he did in the business, whether it be as a wrestler, booker, or just used for comic relief, Pat Patterson gave all he had, and usually it was entertaining. When Dusty Rhodes died, I thought it would be a great idea for Patterson to come back, and give his knowledge to all the NXT wrestlers. A guy like Patterson could be the ultimate teacher.
He was just that damn good.